Ohioans Among Top Election Week Visitors to Gay Sites

As the key to Bush’s presidential victory, not only did Ohio turn out to be the “Florida” of 2004, but it’s also home to a battle over same-sex marriage. The contentiousness of that debate resulted in strong Internet traffic to gay and lesbian Web sites. Ohio ranked third among U.S. states in visits to gay and lesbian sites during election week, according to a Hitwise report.

The company monitored 211 leading gay and lesbian community sites and found Ohio Internet users were 52 percent more likely to visit such sites during the week ending November 6 than users in all other states. Only Washington, D.C. and New Mexico, posted higher figures, 110 percent and 60 percent, respectively. Usage information was gathered through ISP data partnerships and opt-in user panels.

What exactly the traffic pattern indicates about Ohio demographics, and as one of 11 states that voted in the election to make same-sex marriage illegal, is debatable.

“While the data points are not entirely conclusive of the beliefs or standpoint of visitors, they would suggest that there is an active and sizeable gay and lesbian community in Ohio,” said Bill Tancer, vice president of research at Hitwise. “This offers another glimpse into just how decisive the issue of same-sex relationships is in a state that ended up favoring a ban on same-sex marriage, as well as determining the outcome of the presidential election.”

Gay pundits disagree about the likelihood of the results indicating a disproportionately large gay community in Ohio. According to Chris Bull, a senior correspondent for gay news portal PlanetOut, the heated issue of whether to ban same-sex marriage is a more likely explanation for the traffic surge.

“The LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender] community was under unprecedented attack this election year, especially in the 11 swing states with the anti-same-sex marriage measures on the ballots,” Bull said. “It’s not surprising that under these circumstances, gays and lesbians would turn to gay-themed sites looking for moral support from their own as well as the latest information on the election. The Internet… is a particularly attractive outlet for those who live outside metropolitan areas, where there is more sense of community and political activity.”

Richard Kravitz, co-owner of Queery.com, a San Francisco-based gay community Web site, is less convinced the traffic volume should be attributed to gay Internet users alone.

“It all has to with the proposed amendment in Ohio,” Kravitz said. “It does not necessarily mean all those visitors were gay or lesbian. If anything, we’ve seen many people going to such sites looking for ammunition to use against the gay community.”

Because gay Internet users have a tendency to be both 80 percent male and from wealthier income brackets than the majority of Americans, marketers are likely scratching their heads over the significance of the data in a state bitterly divided on more than one major political issue.

Hitwise collects Internet usage information via a combination of ISP data partnerships and opt-in mega panels, and complies with local and international privacy legislation as audited by PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Demographics of Total U.S.
Visitors to Gay and Lesbian
Community Sites
Demographic Percentage
Men 80%
Women 20%
Visitors aged 35-44 years old 31%
Visitors 55 and older 10%
Source: Hitwise, data period week ending Nov. 6, 2004

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